You may have heard about the auto accident that put comedian Tracy Morgan in a coma for two weeks and killed his friend and fellow comedian James McNair. What you may not have heard is that after a thorough investigation it is believed that the cause of that accident was most likely fatigued driving.
A recently released government report indicates that the driver of the truck that hit Morgan's limo van had not slept for 28 hours prior to the accident. This finding reveals what many road safety officials already know. And that's that driver fatigue plays a part in up to 7,500 fatal motor vehicle crashes a year in the United States. The CDC indicates that 25% of fatal collisions are related to drowsy driving.
So what do officials use to determine if one is driving drowsy? Well it is far more common for people to fall asleep while driving if they tend to sleep six or less hours a night, if they snore (indicating the potential of sleep apnea), or if they doze off throughout the day unintentionally.
Drowsy driving accidents typically take place at night and occur more frequently on higher speed roadways like interstates and highways. This was the case with Tracy's crash in which a Wal-Mart truck driver rear-ended the limo on a New Jersey turnpike in the early morning.
Many believe that drowsy driving is a semi-driver problem, but Daniel Blower, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, believes "it's a broader social problem."
National Highways Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 2.5 percent of fatal and 2 percent of non-fatal motor accidents are related to driver fatigue. Experts believe these numbers are a gross underestimation of drowsy driving's actual impact on roadway safety.
Many police reports do not list drowsy driving as it can be hard to spot and there is not test to prove sleepiness like we have for driving under the influence. That said, driving drowsy impairs drivers attention, judgement and slows reactions times. Much like the impairments that occur when driving under the influence. It is not uncommon for officials to compare drowsy driving to driving under the influence, and public service announcements are targeting drowsy driving nearly as much as drunk driving.